Controversy sucks. That said, so does 25 to Life. This abysmal, cheap, generic, ugly, and flat out disgusting 3rd person shooter exists solely because Eidos knew it would cause the mainstream media to jump on it. That translates to sales, and the more people that play this one, the fewer gamers we have in the world. They won’t stick around after this.
25 to Life isn’t just stupid. It’s a combination of stupid and dumb, creating a new term for itself: stumb. There are countless things wrong here, one of which is the fact that this costs money. Taking control of two characters (a drug pusher and a cop), players traverse pathetically clichéd environments, shooting down both sides of the law.
Law is a loose term here. Police have a right to protest against this game being on store shelves, but not because it lets the player shoot them. It’s because they’re portrayed as gun toting maniacs. In a classic example of this titles wonderful logic, the cops will warn you to stop or they’ll shoot. The problem is they do this after they’ve shot you so many times that you’re laying on the ground as a pool of blood begins to form under your body.
The same goes for your partner, some slight accompaniment on a few missions. An early mission has the player taking a rookie cop on a drug bust, but even for a rookie, he should know better than to shoot his partner in the back of the head… multiple times. It’s bad enough when we’re supposed to believe they’ll send two officers into a drug mafias house alone with only a revolver, but to have the added difficulty of not being able to shoot back at the idiot who can’t figure out how to move slightly left to avoid killing you, it’s impossibly frustrating exercise in how wrong AI can be.
Even if you can get past the AI, the action itself presents nothing worthwhile. The rough aiming system never seems to be shooting where it indicates, enemies have the uncanny ability to shoot you the moment you peek from behind a wall, and the mission structure is nothing short of broken. It’s one of those irritating games that apparently force you to use stealth, yet fail to offer you the necessary tools to do so. In other words, bean a guy with a baseball bat, take his gun, and shoot ad nauseam. It’s far easier than creeping around in the ghetto.
25 to Life tries to be unique by letting you take human hostages. Since your own partners have no problem shooting you when you’re not looking, you can probably figure out that the bad guys could really care less that you’re holding Jeremy from accounting as a hostage. Online play via Xbox Live might also feature this same mechanic. However, we’ll never know.
After trying multiple days, at peak and non-peak hours, the best case scenario showed one other person lingering in the lobby. That’s a positive sign that most copies are sitting in a warehouse, mercifully unsold. Sadly for those who want to play it, they’re out of luck. It supposedly features a nifty “turf war” feature, and the ability to play either side of the law here too.
It’s likely that all these modes would have done was add to the abysmal, illogical, and completely absurd “gansta” aesthetic. It’s not “hardcore” dialogue when 90% of the language features a naughty four-letter word. It’s trying so hard, the entire thing ends up comically funny. It’s a parody of itself at this point.
Even without the dialogue, it’s hard to take anything seriously in 25 to Life when you have police conveniently parking next to explosive, fuel-filled red barrels that happen to be sitting in the middle of an apartment complex. Some of these cops must have been sick the day they explained the danger of the clearly red explosive barrel. Then again, maybe this all ends up as bad game design.
As bad as the story is, it’s told even worse. The grainy, compressed, and flat out ugly video cinematics use the in-game graphics engine to progress. If you thought the game looked bad from a distance, wait until it zooms in on the character models. The audio also fluctuates, meaning you’ll need to crank the volume well past your usual level to hear the cinematics, and then back to normal once the “action” begins.
25 to Life isn’t excused because it’s based on video game logic. It fails because it has no logic at all. The hard-edged attempt to be serious only makes things stick out more. If the scoring system used on this site allowed a nicely rounded 0, that’s what it would get. As for the controversy, if we have people in this country who would actually take this seriously, that’s the fault of our education system failing to teach kids at a young age that floating, spinning first aid kits will not refill their health meters in the midst of a gang war.
25 to Life is a rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language (which pretty much covers everything). This game can sadly also be found on: PC, PS2.